Bar News - June 17, 2015
Book Review: Seasoned NH Lawyer’s Trial Prep Book an Indispensable Guide
By: Review by Mary Tenn
Preparing for Trial – 60 Days and Counting
By Bruce Felmly
American Bar Association,First Chair Press, 2015, 107 pages
Rose Kennedy, mother of President John F. Kennedy, was known for saying that life isn’t measured in milestones but in moments. Every trial lawyer knows that to be abundantly true. The moments of the trial come quickly, and often at great consequence to our clients.
Bruce Felmly’s new book, Preparing for Trial - 60 Days and Counting, is an essential read for any trial lawyer – seasoned, newly minted or aspiring. Enjoyable for its stories of moments lived in the trenches of courtrooms around the country, the book details a systematic way for lawyers to prepare for trial and the many surprises that undoubtedly arise once the trial gets underway.
It seems not that long ago that I sat in the back of a federal courtroom as a summer associate, watching lawyers spar over witness testimony, objections and jury instructions, wondering then (and sometimes still now) how those lawyers were able to unflappably navigate the unexpected twists of the courtroom drama. Certainly hard work and preparation were involved, but the easy confidence with which the lawyers commanded the courtroom suggested something more. I later learned that, through extensive trial experience, these lawyers had developed a method for approaching their cases and making sure they were ready for anything.
Felmly is an accomplished trial lawyer who developed his craft in the courtrooms of New Hampshire and beyond. He has spent his career at the law firm of McLane, Graf Raulerson & Middleton in Manchester, NH, where he was mentored as a new lawyer and learned the art of trial practice. Felmly earned national recognition as an exceptional trial lawyer and formidable courtroom adversary – distinctions that come from the experience of scores of cases, verdicts and innumerable moments during trial.
In his book, Felmly shares insights from his career as a trial lawyer. He has synthesized his years of experience into a power-packed strategic guide and sets out a methodical calendar-based approach to trial preparation. The book is especially valuable for lawyers in today’s legal world where civil jury trials are becoming increasingly scarce, and lawyers rarely have the experience of frequent trials.
From the perspective of one who has heard more than most, “Is the plaintiff ready for trial?” Felmly sets out a practical approach for lawyers to command both the substance of the evidence and the operational details. Beginning 60 days before trial, Felmly provides a week-by-week and day-by-day strategic calendar for preparing the case.
For newer lawyers, Felmly’s book addresses essential basics and emphasizes the less-obvious tasks necessary for effective trial preparation, organizing a task that can seem daunting into digestible chunks laid out on a timeline, providing a reliable method to reduce stress.
And for the more experienced lawyer, Felmly’s book sets out an organizational framework to approach and delegate key trial preparation tasks that oftentimes occur in a haphazard and reactive way as the distractions of last-minute settlement discussions or late-motion practice encroach on the limited time for careful preparation.
Felmly’s book addresses important points. For example, he reminds readers that the natural tendency to leave the drafting of the opening statement until everything else is done simply is wrong. The opening should not be left to the night before trial. Felmly advises readers to start working on the opening at least 30 days in advance of trial and to continue working on it as themes develop and concerns are addressed or at least managed in discovery. Ask yourself whether the witnesses and evidence will prove what you are about to promise. Getting the opening done well in advance forces a rigorous look at the elements that must be proved at trial and the necessary evidence.
Felmly’s book also focuses on the cadence of the courtroom and the myriad details for which trial lawyers are called upon to plan and prepare. Have you practiced with the technology for your demonstrative evidence? Have you tried it in the actual courtroom? Does it work? In your trial bag, do you have an extension cord and a back-up (hard copy or other electronics) in case something goes awry? The moment the jury watches a lawyer fumble to get a document displayed on the screen or struggle to power-up technology is a seemingly endless moment that good trial lawyers prepare to avoid.
Preparing for Trial - 60 Days and Counting will undoubtedly become required reading in trial practice courses across the country as law schools and law students focus on being practice-ready. Felmly’s book joins those few well-tattered guides that students of the law study and then keep for reference.
Having read Preparing for Trial - 60 Days and Counting, when the question “are you ready for trial?” is asked, in that moment you will answer, “Yes.”
Felmly’s book, Preparing for Trial - 60 Days and Counting, can be purchased in paperback or as an e-book from the American Bar Association at www.ShopABA.org or by calling 1- 800-285-2221.
Mary Tenn is the 2015-2016 president of the New Hampshire Bar Association and a partner at Tenn and Tenn in Manchester.